What makes people approve or condemn mind upload technology? Untangling the effects of sexual disgust, purity, and science fiction familiarity

Michael Laakasuo, Maria-Anna Drosinou, Mika Koverola, Anton Kunnari, Juho Halonen, Noora Lehtonen, Jussi Petteri Palomäki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The idea of separating a person's consciousness and transferring it to another medium-'mind upload'-is being actively discussed in science, philosophy, and science fiction. Mind upload technologies are currently also being developed by private companies in Silicon Valley, and similar technological developments have received significant funding in the EU. Mind upload has important existential and ethical implications, yet little is known about how ordinary people actually feel about it. The current paper aims to provide a thorough moral psychological evaluation about various cognitive factors that explain people's feelings and reactions towards the use of mind upload technology. In four studies (including pilot) with a total of 952 participants, it was shown that biological and cultural cognitive factors help to determine how strongly people condemn mind upload. Both experimental manipulations in a laboratory and cross-sectional correlative online study designs were employed. The results showed that people who value purity norms and have higher sexual disgust sensitivity are more inclined to condemn mind upload. Furthermore, people who are anxious about death and condemn suicidal acts were more accepting of mind upload. Finally, higher science fiction literacy and/or hobbyism strongly predicted approval of mind upload. Several possible confounding factors were ruled out, including personality, values, individual tendencies towards rationality, and theory of mind capacities. Possible idiosyncrasies in the stimulus materials (whether consciousness is uploaded onto a computer, chimpanzee, artificial brain, or android; and whether the person's body physically dies during the process) were ruled out. The core findings inform ongoing philosophical discussions on how mind upload could (or should) be used in the future, and imply that mind upload is a much more salient topic for the general population than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalPalgrave Communications
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 611 Philosophy
  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • 515 Psychology

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